Entity Recognition with Google Search Appliance 7.2


In this article we would like to present some of the possibilities offered by the entity recognition option of Google Search Appliance (GSA). Entity recognition was introduced with the release of version 7.0 and improvements will still be added in future releases. We have used version 7.2 to write this blogpost and illustrate how GSA can perform named-entity recognition and sentiment analysis.

Entity Recognition in brief

Entity recognition enables the GSA to discover entities (such as names of people, places, organizations, products, dates, etc.) in documents where these are not available in the Metadata or in general, may be needed in order to enhance the search experience (e.g. via faceted search/dynamic navigation). There are three ways of defining entities:

  • With a TXT format dictionary of entities, where each entity type is in a separate file.
  • With an XML format dictionary, where entities are defined by synonyms and regular expressions. Currently, the regular expressions only match single words.
  • With composite entities written as an LL1 grammar.

Example 1: Identifying people

The basic setup for recognition of person names is to upload a dictionary of first names and a dictionary of surnames. Then, you can create a composite entity full name by using a simple LL1 grammar rule, for example {fullname}::=[firstname] [surname]. Every first name in your dictionary, followed by a space and then followed by a surname will be recognized as a full name. With the same approach, you can define more complex full names such as:

{fullName}::= {Title set}{Name set}{Middlenames}{Surname set}
{Title set}::=[Title] {Title set}
{Title set} ::= [epsilon]
{Name set} ::= [Name] {Name set2}
{Name set2} ::= [Name] {Name set2}
{Name set2} ::= [epsilon]
{Middlenames} ::= [Middlename]
{Middlenames} ::= [epsilon]
{Surname set} ::= [Surname] {Surname set2}
{Surname set2} ::= [Surname] {Surname set2}
{Surname set2} ::= [epsilon]

A full name will be recognized if it matches 0 or 1 instances of a title, one or more first names, 0 or 1 middle names and one or more surnames, all separated with a space. (e.g.: Dr John Anders Lee).


  • All the names in the content will be matched
  • Common words similar to names will be matched. Example: Charlotte Stone. To reduce this limitation, you can enable the case sensitive option and match a full name
  • In the preceding example, Dr John Anders Lee and John Anders Lee will be recognized as a different person
  • No support for multiple entities within composite entities. John Anders Lee will be matched as a full name, but John will not be matched as a name.


Example 2: Identifying places

Place names such as cities, countries, streets can be easily defined with the help of dictionaries in TXT format. One can also define locations by using regular expressions, especially if these share the same substring (e.g. “street” or “square”). For example, a Swedish street will often contain the substring “gata”, meaning “street”:

<name> Street </name>

This will allow us to identify one-word places like “Storgatan“, “Järntorget” but will fail in cases where we have 2 or more words in the name such as “Olof Palmes plats”.

Swedish postal codes can be defined with a regex matching 5 digits. Note, however, that all numbers of 5 digits will be matched as a postal code and that you cannot define space in the postal code due to the regular expression limitation of the GSA only matching a single word.

You can use the synonyms function of the xml dictionary to link a postal code with a city.

<name> Göteborg </name>

40330, 40510, 41190 and 41302 will be recognized as the entity Göteborg.

You can also use the synonyms to describe a territory division (kommun, län, country).

     <name> Göteborg Stad</name> 
     <term> Angered </term>
     <term> Backa </term>
     <term> Göteborg </term>
     <term> Torslanda </term>
     <term> Västra Frölunda </term>
     <name> Öckerö </name>
     <term> Hönö </term>
     <term> Öckerö </term> 
     <term> Rörö </term>



Example 3: Sentiment analysis

Sentiment analysis aims at identifying the predominant mood (happy/sad, anger/happiness, positive/negative, etc) of a document by analyzing its content. Here we will show you a simple case of identifying positive vs negative mood in a document.

Basic analysis

For a basic analysis one can create two dictionaries, one with positive words (good, fine, excellent, like, love …) and one with negative words (bad, dislike, don’t, not …). Such an analysis is simplistic and very limited for the following reasons:

• There is no real grammar
• Limited coverage of the lexicons
• No degree of judgment
• No global analysis of the document (if a document has 3 different polarity words it will be tagged with 3 different categories)

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 11.19.31

Analysis with grammar

If you add a dictionary of negations, you can create a more powerful tool with just a small grammar of compose entities. For example, {en negative} ::= [en negation] [en positive word] will correctly identify the English “not good”, “don’t like”, “didn’t succeed”  as negative terms. One can certainly create deeper analysis with more advanced grammar. Thus you can  specify special dictionaries for gender, emphatic words, nouns, verbs, adjectives,etc and build composite entities, and grammar rules with them. Below you see an example of the application of a simple grammar.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 11.36.46

Degrees of sentiment

You can also add some degrees in the sentiments using the synonyms feature.

  <name> Good </name>
  <term> good </term>
  <term> fine </term>
  <term> like </term>
  <name> Very Good </name>
  <term> excellent </term>
  <term> amazing </term>
  <term> great </term>
  <name> Bad </name>
  <term> bad </term>
  <term> dislike </term>
  <term> don’t </term>
  <term> can’t </term>
  <term> not </term>
  <name> Very Bad </name>
  <term> awful </term>
  <term> hate </term>

Note, however that you cannot combine such synonym entries with other entity dictionaries or grammar rules.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.00.16


There are some limitations of this approach as well:

  • No possibility to extract global sentiment for a given document. You cannot count in a document how many terms are matched as good and how many are matched as bad and then define the global sentiment for this document. However, when the regular expression limitations are fixed, one will be able to do so.
  • As with sentiment analysis in general and other dictionary-based approaches it is hard to discover sarcasm and irony.


In this blog post we showed how one can use the Entity recognition feature of GSA 7.2. While there are still some limitations of the tools provided, they are mature enough to enhance your search solution. Depending on the type of data, one can do simple sentiment analysis as well as more complex recognition of entities by using LL1 grammar.

A nice add-on to the Entity recognition setup in the GSA would be the possibility to load pre-trained models for Named Entity Recognition or sentiment analysis.


Entity recognition with GSA:

Dynamic navigation:

SLTC 2012 in retrospect – two cutting-edge components

The 4th Swedish Language Technology Conference (SLTC) was held in Lund on 24-26 October 2012.
It is a biennial event organized by prominent research centres in Sweden.
The conference is, therefore, an excellent venue to exchange ideas with Swedish researchers in the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP), as well as present own research and be updated of the state-of-the-art in most of the areas of Text Analytics (TA).

This year Findwise participated in two tracks – in a workshop and in the main conference.
As the area of Search Analytics (SA) is very important to us, we decided to be proactive and sent an application to organize a workshop on the topic of “Exploratory Query Log Analysis” in connection with the main conference. The application was granted and the workshop was very successful. It gathered researchers who work in the area of SA from very different perspective – from utilizing deep Machine Learning to discover users’ intent,  to looking at query logs as a totally new genre. I will do a follow-up on that in another post. All the contributions to the workshop will also be uploaded on our research page.

As for the main conference, we had two papers accepted for presentation. The first one dealt with the topic of document summarization – both single and multidocument summarization
The second paper was about detecting Named Enities in Swedish

These two papers presented de facto state-of-the-art results for Swedish both when it comes to document summarization and Named Entity Recognition (NER). As for the former task, there is neither a standard corpus for evaluation of summarization systems, nor many previous results and just few other systems which made it unfeasible to compare our own system with. Thus, we have contributed two things to the research in document summarization – a Swedish corpus based on featured Wikipedia articles to be used for evaluation and a system based on unsupervised Machine Learning, which by relying on domain boosting achieves state-of-the-art results for English and Swedish. Our system can be further improved by relying on our enhanced NER and Coreference resolution modules.

As for the NER paper, our Entity recognition system for Swedish achieves 74.0% F-score, which is 4% higher than another study presented simultaneously at SLTC (http://www.ling.su.se/english/nlp/tools/stagger). Both systems were evaluated on the same corpus, which is considered a de facto standard for evaluation of different NLP resources for Swedish. The unlabelled score (i.e. no fine-grained division of classes but just entity vs non-entity) of our system achieved 91.3% F-score (93.1% Precision and 89.6% Recall). When identifying people, the Findwise NER system achieves 78.1% Precision and 90.5% Recall (83.9% F-score).

So, what did we take home from the conference? We were really happy to see that the tools we develop for our customers are not something mediocre but rather something that is of very high quality and is the state-of-the-art in Swedish NLP. We actively share our results and our corpora for research perposes. Findwise showed keen interest in cooperating with other researchers in developing better tools and systems in the area of NLP and Text Analytics. And this I think is a huge bonus to all our current and prospective customers – we actively follow the current trends in the research community and cooperate with researchers, and our products do incorporate the latest findings in the field, which make us leverage both high quality and cutting-edge technology.

As we continuously improve our products, we have also released a Polish NER and some work has been initiated on Danish and Norwegian ones. More NLP components will be soon available for demo and testing on our research page.

Phonetic Algorithm: Bryan, Brian, Briane, Bryne, or … what was his name again?

Let the spelling loose …

What do Callie and Kelly have in common (except for the double ‘l’ in the middle)? What about “no” and “know”, or “Ceasar’s” and “scissors” and what about “message” and “massage”? You definitely got it – Callie and Kelly, “no” and “know”, “Ceasar’s” and “scissors” sound alike, but are spelled quite differently. “message” and “massage” on the other hand differ by only one vowel (“a” vs “e”) but their pronunciation is not at all the same.

It’s a well known fact for many languages that ortography does not determine the pronunciation of words. English is a classic example. George Bernard Shaw was the attributed author of “ghoti” as an alternative spelling of “fish”. And while phonology often reflects the current state of the development of the language, orthography may often lag centuries behind. And while English is notorious for that phenomenon it is not the only one. Swedish, French, Portuguese, among others, all have their ortography/pronunciation discrepancies.

Phonetic Algorithms

So how do we represent things that sound similar but are spelled different? It’s not trivial but for most cases it is not impossible either. Soundex is probably the first algorithm to tackle this problem. It is an example of the so called phonetic algorithms which attempt to solve the problem of giving the same encoding to strings which are pronounced in a similar fashion. Soundex was designed for English only but has its limits. DoubleMetaphone (DM) is one of the possible replacements and relatively successful. Designed by Lawrence Philips in the beginning of 1990s it not only deals with native English names but also takes proper care of foreign names so omnipresent in the language. And what is more – it can output two possible encodings for a given name, hence the “Double” in the naming of the algorithm, – an anglicised and a native (be that Slavic, Germanic, Greek, Spanish, etc.) version.

By relying on DM one can encode all the four names in the title of this post as “PRN”. The name George will get two encodings – JRJ and KRK, the second version reflecting a possible German pronunciation of the name. And a name with Polish origin, like Adamowicz, would also get two encodings – ATMTS and ATMFX, depending on whether you pronounce the “cz” as the English “ch” in “church” or “ts” in “hats”.

The original implementation by Lawrence Philips allowed a string to be encoded only with 4 characters. However, in most subsequent
implementations of the algorithm this option is parameterized or just omitted.

Apache Commons Codec has an implementation of the DM among others (Soundex, Metaphone, RefinedSoundex, ColognePhonetic, Coverphone, to
name just a few.) and here is a tiny example with it:

import org.apache.commons.codec.language.DoubleMetaphone;

public class DM {

public static void main(String[] args) {

String s = "Adamowicz";

DoubleMetaphone dm = new DoubleMetaphone();

// Default encoding length is 4!

// Let's make it 10


System.out.println("Alternative 1: " + dm.doubleMetaphone(s) +

// Remember, DM can output 2 possible encodings:

"nAlternative 2: " + dm.doubleMetaphone(s, true));


The above code will print out:

Alternative 1: ATMTS

Alternative 2: ATMFX

It is also relatively straightforward to do phonetic search with Solr. You just need to ensure that you add the phonetic analysis to a field which contains names in your schema.xml:


While DM does perform quite well, at first sight, it has its limitations. We should know that it still originated from the English language and although it aims to tackle a variety of non-native borrowings most of the rules are English-centric. Suppose you work on any of the Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic) and one of the names you want to encode is “Örjan”. However, “Orjan” and “Örjan” get different encodings – ARJN vs RJN. Why is that? One look under the hood (the implementation in DoubleMetaphone.java) will give you the answer:

private static final String VOWELS = "AEIOUY";

So the Scandinavian vowels “ö”, “ä”, “å”, “ø” and “æ” are not present. If we just add these then compile and use the new version of the DM implementation we get the desired output – ARJN for both “Örjan” and “Orjan”.

Finally, if you don’t want to use DM or maybe it is really not suitable for your task, you still may use the same principles and create your own encoder by relying on regular expressions for example. Suppose you have a list of bogus product names which are just (mis)spelling variations of some well known names and you want to search for the original name but get back all ludicrous variants. Here is one albeit very naïve way to do it. Given the following names:








and with a bunch of regular expressions you can easily encode them as “cphldR” and “mclnR”.

String[] ar = new String[]{"CupHoulder", "CappHolder", "KeepHolder",
"MacKleena", "MackCliiner", "MacqQleanAR", "Ma'cKcle'an'ar"};

for (String a : ar) {
a = a.toLowerCase();
a = a.replaceAll("[ae]r?$", "R");
a = a.replaceAll("[aeoiuy']", "");
a = a.replaceAll("pp+", "p");
a = a.replaceAll("q|k", "c");
a = a.replaceAll("cc+", "c");

You can now easily find all the ludicrous spellings of “CupHolder” och “MacCleaner”.

I hope this blogpost gave you some ideas of how you can use phonetic algorithms and their principles in order to better discover names and entities that sound alike but are spelled unlike. At Findwise we have done a number of enhancements to DM in order to make it work better with Swedish, Danish and Norwegian.


You can learn more about Double Metaphone from the following article by the creator of the algorithm:

A German phonetic algorithm is the Kölner Phonetik:

And SfinxBis is a phonetic algorithm based on Soundex and is Swedish specific: